“Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private school, supported entirely by private contributions.” Ulysses Grant. Petitioners challenged a scholarship program that required enrollment in a “charter school” and admission to a qualified private school. Taxpayer money funded the scholarship, which was paid to the parents who then paid the private school. Nearly 93% of recipients enrolled in religious schools. The Court held the program unconstitutional under Colorado’s expansive prohibition on public funding of “sectarian” schools because the program “supports and sustains” such schools. The element of private choice was insufficient absent safeguards against funding religious schools. As such, invalidating the program does not violate the 1st Amendment. Petitioners lacked taxpayer standing to challenge the program under a statute.
Tag Archives: Taxpayer Standing
Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado v. Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc., Mike Smith; David Habecker; Timothy G. Bailey; and Jeff Baysinger, 2014CO77 (Nov. 24, 2014)
No harm, no foul. Individuals have standing to sue the government if the government’s actions cause them an injury-in-fact. An injury can be tangible or intangible, but not indirect or incidental. Taxpayers have standing to sue as taxpayers, if the government expenditure is related to the alleged harm. Here, nonbelievers sued over the constitutionality of Colorado’s Day of Prayer proclamations. The Court dismissed not because the proclamations were unconstitutional, but because the Plaintiffs were not injured by them. The incidental expenditure of public funds on overhead was not sufficient to establish taxpayer standing. Plaintiffs also claimed psychic harm by the issuance of the proclamations that politically excluded them by promoting religion, due to their nonbelief. But the government did not coerce, punish, or prevent them from having or changing their beliefs.